Heather McDonald spent seven years writing for and appearing on Chelsea Lately. She also developed and co-starred on the faux reality show After Lately, wrote two books, wrote for movies, and has maintained a headlining stand up career. Oh yeah, she also had time to start a family, and put together a one-hour special for Showtime this summer. So it should come as a surprise to no one that she is on the list of incredible women who were invited to perform as part of the Venetian Hotel’s Lipshtick comedy series. This weekend, she’s back at the Venetian and told us that she is bringing her girlfriends to town with her and they are ready to rip it- Vegas style.
“I really do love Vegas,” Heather told us. “Last time I did Lipshtick my husband came with me and we brought a couple of really fun couples, and this time, it’s my best friend’s birthday so we’re doing a girl trip. So that should be interesting and a little more exciting I think, cause we’ve got some divorcees, we’ve got some married women and some who might end up divorced by the end of the weekend so I think it will be an exciting fun time for all.”
She and her girlfriends have a full itinerary planned, which will include champagne, dinner at one of Vegas’ hot restaurants, partying at club Tao, and even a trip to “the Link” a Vegas Ferris Wheel with a great view of the strip. Vegas is a special kind of place, McDonald admits, where adults can go to the clubs and feel comfortable, and anything goes. It’s a great city for comedy too.
“What’s cool about a Vegas crowd, that some comics find a challenge, is that everybody’s from a different place. Like you can go, oh this Chicago crowd loves this stuff, or when I’m in the south I do more of this, and less of this because they might be offended. But in Vegas you’re getting such an array of people. Now sometimes the people are asleep in the front row because they’ve been drinking all day, so you have to address that too. But for the most part, its a sophisticated fun crowd that comes to the Lipshtick show, and yeah, I’ll do some stuff about my experiences this weekend and the other stuff that I talk about that is relatable to anybody wherever they’re from so I don’t adjust it too much.”
Even though she likes her girls nights, there’s nothing about Heather or her comedy that fits any stereotypes. Before spending seven years writing for Chelsea Lately, she worked often with the Wayans brothers— working on the movies White Chicks and Dance Flick, as well as Keenan Ivory Wayans‘ late night show. Working with the Wayans family was a great experience that taught her that she could write any kind of comedy. “I loved working with the Wayans Brothers. I mean they are absolutely tall and gorgeous and delicious and funny in every way. And every time we’d have a writing session you’d get to hug every single one of them that enters the room, and now there’s all the nephews that are doing quite well, and they’re just as cute and tall and adorable.” When the opportunity came to write for Chelsea, McDonald thought “well, if I can write for a black man, I can write for her.”
And of course, she also writes her own material, which largely focuses on being unabashedly honest about her own life, which these days includes a lot of material about being a mom. Most moms who talk about their kids will only tell you how perfect and special their kids are. But once again, Heather McDonald doesn’t fit the stereotype. Yes, she talks about her kids– a lot– but she does it with complete, naked honesty. She’s completely comfortable with it, but sometimes it comes as a surprise to her audiences.
“I never shied away from the truth about [being a mom],” she said, “and sometimes I know people go oooooh a little bit in the audience, and I’m like ‘oh shut up, like you don’t hate legos? like you haven’t stepped on a lego and hurt your foot and wanted to like, kill your kid?’ And then they laugh again, so you get the laugh twice.”
She learned early on that she preferred to talk about her own experiences in her comedy. When she was first getting started, she was accused of stealing a joke from another comic. It was about the old telephone service of hitting *69. “I was so upset because I was this good catholic girl, I’ve never even cheated on a spelling test, and I’m like, you’re really thinking I would steal someone’s material?” From that point on she started to use her own experiences as her primary source. But it’s not the only thing she talks about in her act.
She also does amazing impressions. It’s not unusual for comedians to do impressions but it’s pretty rare to find a woman who can roll through a long list of impressions outside of the sketch comedy/wigs/makeup universe. In fact, we couldn’t think of a single other female comedian who can match Heather’s skills. Her list of impressions includes both men and women– ranging from Drew Barrymore and Jennifer Aniston, to Howard Stern and Jack Black (watch a few of them here). Her Jennifer Aniston is almost flawless, so we asked her where she comes up with ideas for impressions. “I never set out to do someone,” she said, “it just comes to me.” You won’t spot her with headphones on staring in the mirror working on perfecting the skill. Doing impressions is a gift that she’s had since she was a kid, and it’s always just come naturally. “For me it’s just, how can I make this person funny,” she said. “I don’t have to clear my throat, I just go right into it.”
So what’s ahead for Heather? After Chelsea wrapped earlier this year, and she finished recording her Showtime special, she finally has some time to stop and think about what she wants to do next. Maybe another book, maybe a TV project or another special. She has no plans as of now to head over to Netflix and work with Chelsea, but hasn’t ruled it out entirely either.
“I mean I really don’t know. Chelsea’s doing these four little specials that just involve her, and then the actual show isn’t going to start till 2016…so who knows. I don’t really know what that show is going to be. Is it a panel situation? Is it going to be straight interviews? Is it going to be live audience or not? I really don’t know. Honestly I’m hoping I’ll be in a position where I’ll be on TV myself and I wouldn’t want to be a staff writer again just because it’s confining, as great as it is as a steady job. But I have to say, I had a really great time working for the show for 7 years and I know it will be successful because she’s hilarious and a great interviewer. She’ll never have trouble getting guests, she’s proven that and I think she’ll do really well.”
But this weekend you know exactly where you’ll find her– in Vegas, at the Venetian, tearing it up for Lipshtick. Get tickets for Heathers 7:30 show on Saturday October 18th here.